TribLIVE

| Sports


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Polanco debuts with 1-for-5 performance as Pirates lose to Cubs

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout in a Pirates uniform for the first time at the start of a game against the Cubs on Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout in a Pirates uniform for the first time at the start of a game against the Cubs on Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco crashes into the outfield wall on a double by the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo during the seventh inning Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco crashes into the outfield wall on a double by the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo during the seventh inning Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout with Starling Marte before their game against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout with Starling Marte before their game against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout with Starling Marte before their game against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout with Starling Marte before their game against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout in a Pirates uniform for the first time at the start of a game against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout in a Pirates uniform for the first time at the start of a game against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout to take batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco steps out of the dugout to take batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco walks down the stairs to the dugout before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco listens to instruction from coach Rick Sofield during early work along the right-field wall Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco listens to instruction from coach Rick Sofield during early work along the right-field wall Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco smiles while answering a question during a news conference Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco smiles while answering a question during a news conference Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco listens to instruction from coach Rick Sofield during early work along the right-field wall Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco listens to instruction from coach Rick Sofield during early work along the right-field wall Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco stretches with Starling Marte before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco stretches with Starling Marte before batting practice Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco takes batting practice with the outfielders Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco takes batting practice with the outfielders Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Robert Galiszewsky of Castle Shannon sports a Gregory Polanco jersey purchased at the Majestic Clubhouse store in left field of PNC Park on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Robert Galiszewsky of Castle Shannon sports a Gregory Polanco jersey purchased at the Majestic Clubhouse store in left field of PNC Park on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen watches as Gregory Polanco throws the ball back to the infield against the Cubs on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen watches as Gregory Polanco throws the ball back to the infield against the Cubs on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Pirates Gregory Polanco pops up on his first at bat against the Cubs' Travis Wood on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates Gregory Polanco pops up on his first at bat against the Cubs' Travis Wood on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Pirates outfield (from left) Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco stand during the National Anthem before their game against the Cubs on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates outfield (from left) Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco stand during the National Anthem before their game against the Cubs on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Pirates Gregory Planco in the batters box his first at bat against the Cubs Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates Gregory Planco in the batters box his first at bat against the Cubs Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco watches Andrew McCutchen cross the plate after after he scored on McCutchen's two-run homer during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco watches Andrew McCutchen cross the plate after after he scored on McCutchen's two-run homer during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco watches his first Major League hit, a single, during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco watches his first Major League hit, a single, during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco waits on-deck for his first Major League at-bat during the first inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco waits on-deck for his first Major League at-bat during the first inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco watches his first Major League hit, a single, during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco watches his first Major League hit, a single, during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco waits on-deck for his first Major League at-bat during the first inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco waits on-deck for his first Major League at-bat during the first inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco collects his first Major League hit, a single, during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco collects his first Major League hit, a single, during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen crosses the plate after after hitting a two-run homer during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen crosses the plate after after hitting a two-run homer during the third inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates right fielder Gregory Planco can't catch up to a ball hit by the Cubs Anthony Rizzo in the seventh inning Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Planco can't catch up to a ball hit by the Cubs Anthony Rizzo in the seventh inning Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at PNC Park.

Pirates/MLB Videos

Firsts for Polanco

First at-bat: popout to shortstop vs. Cubs pitcher Travis Wood in first inning

First hit: single to left field vs. Wood in the third inning

First run: scored on Andrew McCutchen home run in the third

First putout: Darwin Barney lineout in second

First strikeout: against Neil Ramirez in ninth

Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 10:42 p.m.
 

Gregory Polanco's wait ended in the visiting clubhouse in Allentown on Monday night, 282 miles from PNC Park. After Indianapolis' game at Lehigh Valley, manager Dean Treanor gathered his Triple-A team for a meeting.

“He said ‘You are going to Pittsburgh tomorrow,' ” Polanco said. “It was a big emotion. I was shy. I didn't know what to do. I was like ‘Oh my God, what is happening?' I started laughing and everyone came and hugged me.”

Pittsburgh's wait to witness the club's most talented positional prospect since Andrew McCutchen, perhaps since Barry Bonds, ended hours later. Polanco made the trip west across the state Tuesday morning, arriving in Pittsburgh at 11 a.m.

Wearing No. 25, the 22-year-old was met with a standing ovation from 31,567 as he approached the left-handed batter's box in the first inning. In the Pirates' 7-3 loss to the Cubs, Polanco went 1 for 5 with a run scored in his major league debut.

“I was very excited. … I was a little nervous,” Polanco said. “I've been waiting all my life, and it made me feel proud of myself and my family.”

Tuesday marked the culmination of a journey beginning five years ago and 1,600 miles away in the Dominican Republic, when Pirates Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo signed a lanky, raw Polanco for $150,000.

The Polanco who arrived Tuesday had blossomed into a 6-foot-4, 220-pound, consensus top-10 prospect.

Polanco's first at-bat was forgettable as he popped out to shortstop. But his second at-bat was a preview of what could be to come.

With a fluid, level, left-handed swing, Polanco laced a 90 mph Travis Wood fastball into left field for a single. It was a small sample of his natural, opposite-field approach to hitting.

“It felt very good,” Polanco said. “It was a fastball outside.”

His precocious approach gave Pirates manager Clint Hurdle confidence to bat Polanco second in the lineup against Wood. Hurdle said Polanco is the most advanced prospect to come through the system during his tenure and he could become a fixture atop the lineup.

“You got to see that swing,” Hurdle said. “He's known one way to hit, and he's continued to perform that one way. He stays inside the ball until the point of impact and focuses on left-center field. The angle from a left-hander, he might have a better comfort with it.”

Polanco hit .338 against left-handed pitching in Triple-A, .347 overall.

Polanco's batting position was welcomed by McCutchen, who entered batting in situations with no runners on and two outs in 26.5 percent of his plate appearances, third most in baseball. After Polanco's single in the third, McCutchen homered to tie the score at 2-2.

Polanco would have had to author a monster debut to help the Pirates overcome an early exit from Francisco Liriano, who left in the fourth with a left oblique strain, and a poor bullpen performance. Casey Sadler allowed four runs in 2 23 innings.

One area where Polanco continues to need refinement is in right field. A natural center fielder, Polanco was shifted to right field full-time this season and he failed to make a running catch of an Anthony Rizzo fly ball in the sixth. The ball fell out of Polanco's glove on the warning track as Rizzo was credited with an RBI double to give the Cubs a 6-3 lead.

Still, it was a day of firsts for Polanco. He recorded his first hit, scored his first run and made his way into a major league stadium for the first time.

Every Pirate must pass under a placard inscribed with a quote from Roberto Clemente in the tunnel to reach the dugout. The quote from Clemente reads: “When I put on my uniform, I feel I am the proudest man on earth.”

Polanco tapped the sign with his glove. The future of right field — and all its promise of greatness — had arrived.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pirates

  1. Pirates cut 12, including outfielder Tabata and pitcher Lincoln
  2. About face: Pirates’ Burnett now digging the shifts
  3. Pirates notebook: Worley bounces back after rough start
  4. Forbes: Pirates worth $900 million
  5. Hair Cutch: Pirates superstar lops off his locks for charity
  6. Spring training breakdown: Braves 7, Pirates 5
  7. Pirates notebook: Catcher Sanchez to break camp with Pirates
  8. Pirates’ Harrison working to use 2014 success as building block
  9. McCutchen says injury won’t prevent him from playing Opening Day
  10. Spring training breakdown: Astros 14, Pirates 2
  11. Fresh Polanco hopes to speed up hands, get better results this season